Over the last five days, there has been a string of high-level resignations from the People’s Labour Party (PLP) headed by Dr. the Hon. Timothy Harris. On Friday March 24, Deputy Leader of the PLP and former Minister of Health, Akilah Byron-Nisbett announced her resignation from the party via a video recording in which she cited a lack of democratic practices under Harris’ leadership. Nisbett was the West Basseterre parliamentary representative for the short period June 2020 to August 2022.
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Following closely on the heels of Nisbett’s resignation was the resignation of Mr. Nubian Greaux, the PLP candidate for the Central Basseterre district in last year’s general elections. Greaux in his March 25 letter to the PLP Chairman, Warren Thompson, expressed that:
After much deliberation and discussion, it is clear that the current leadership of the People’s Labour Party does not have any respect for the core values of the party……I am resigning from the People’s Labour Party and from all associated interests in the party. It is my hope that the structure of the party be re-evaluated with the interest of our people positioned at the forefront.
But before the close of the day of Greaux’s resignation, the letter of resignation of PLP’s candidate for Constituency #8, Mr. Andrew ‘Talbo’ Bass, surfaced. Mr. Bass posited the reason for his resignation as his deep concern and regret that the PLP ‘could not agree to basic democratic principles’.
While supporters of the imploding People’s Labour Party were still trying to fully grasp the scope and magnitude of their party’s collapse, they were visited the following day, March 26, with news of the resignation of Mr. Warren Thompson, the chairman of their party. Mr. Thompson highlighted that the core values of democracy, integrity, accountability and transparency that attracted him to the party were not being exhibited under Harris’ leadership.
For Dr. Timothy Harris, it would appear that the chickens are now coming home to roost. Harris, who had been a member of the Dr. Denzil Douglas-led St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party administration for 18 years from 1995 to 2013, led a small faction to break away from that party and began to make charges about the undemocratic leadership style of the then-leader of the party and government. In 2013, Harris led the formation of a new party, the People’s Labour Party, and joined with the People’s Action Movement (PAM) and the Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM) to file a motion of no confidence in the government of the day.
Out of the union of the three political parties, with Harris as its leader, Team Unity was born. Team Unity swept its way into office at the general elections of February 2015 and Harris became St. Kitts and Nevis’ third Prime Minister.
But almost from the inception, it appeared that the government was very unsettled under Harris’ leadership. Harris, whose People’s Labour Party was holding one seat in the coalition government, began to be viewed as a dictator. His style of governance was being viewed as very heavy-handed and he appointed members of his immediate family and his cronies in key positions of power. Members of Harris’ Cabinet complained profusely that Harris was systematically marginalising and undermining them, but their complaints fell on deaf ears.
The truth is, Harris ruled with an attitude of invincibility. His powers were untrammeled.
Notwithstanding the serious charges made against Harris, his coalition partners supported his continuation as Prime Minister after the general elections of 2020 in which Team Unity was again successful. But the second-term Prime Minister was accused of being even more dictatorial, and after just a year and a half into the term, the cracks which had been long visible became gaping fissures. The Team Unity government irrevocably collapsed when leader of the PAM – Shawn Richards, leader of the CCM – Mark Brantley, and other members of the government openly lambasted Harris in his presence in their televised speeches at the annual national convention of the PAM in March of 2022.
By April of 2022, Harris was facing a motion of no confidence and terminated the ministerial appointments of the six ministers who had filed the motion. Team Unity disintegrated and Harris’ PLP contested independently in the elections of August 2022, fielding candidates in all 8 constituencies in St. Kitts. Harris’ PLP was vanquished with Harris being the only candidate from his party to be elected.
The recent spate of resignations of candidates and other high officials of the People’s Labour Party not only seem to all be triggered by a common concern – Harris’ undemocratic and untransparent style of governance – but are consistent with what the St. Kitts-Nevis public has come to expect from Harris’ leadership.